Monday, December 15, 2014

"I feel like my heart is getting ripped apart... :( the thought of leaving these people is killing me... I hate goodbyes... but I'm looking at my future with hope :)"

Family!                                                              December 15, 2014

I don't even know how to start explaining all the emotions that I'm feeling right now.... I think today is the first day that it's actually starting to hit me that I will see you guys in less than 3 days! what. I am sooo excited to see you guys. It's been way too long ;) haha but at the same time.... I feel like my heart is getting ripped apart... :( the thought of leaving these people is killing me... I hate goodbyes... but I'm looking at my future with hope :)

I don't even know how to describe my last week of my mission. It was a definitely a unique week haha The whole mission has seemed to have come down with the flu really badly all at once. It's pretty crazy. Luckily, I haven't gotten it!! But there have been so many sisters that have.... we had 3 different companionships call wanting us to go on exchanges with them throughout the week because they were going crazy staying in the area while their companion was trying to get better... so we were all over the place trying to help out these sisters! It was a great experience though of going out and working with those sisters. There is nothing like working with a smile on your face, spirit in your heart and sharing the "good news" of the gospel with everyone that you see :) It really does make your day so much brighter as you go out, forget about yourself, and think upon the needs of those around you. :)

I have to admit that because of all the stress of things going on last week, trying to keep working hard in the area, me trying to push myself to work my hardest to the end, and then stressing myself out with coming home gave me really bad stomach aches and I haven't slept much haha so.... hopefully I look presentable as I come home totally sleep deprived. ha! I'm doing just fine so don't worry! It's just been interesting to deal with the last week!

It's been really bittersweet saying goodbye to people. We had Marvin, Sylotte and Dave at church yesterday! Brother Hopfer in the bishopric surprised me when he announced at the end of the sacrament meeting that he wanted me to bare my testimony again to the ward before I leave. I bore my testimony of being a daughter of God, that Jesus is the Christ and that although I am just one voice and one person...that I know that God helps us proclaim that joyful news of the restored gospel as we share it. I am so grateful that I have had these 18 months (and two weeks!) to give all of my time and attention to sharing it with others. This will be a time that I never forget.

I taught the Restoration for the last time as a missionary last week with a sister that is going home with me... it was one of the most powerful lessons that I have taught. I felt the love of God SOOOO strongly through the whole lesson as we bore testimony of the love that He is has that He has given us His plan, families to bless us, prophets to lead and guide us, that "God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son", and that He loves us all sooo much and wants us to know the truths of the gospel that He Himself and Jesus Christ came and appeared to Joseph Smith for the restoration of the gospel in this last dispensation. We are so loved :) It feels my heart with sooo much joy as I ponder on how blessed we are to have a Father that loves us unconditionally.

I just finished reading the book of Mark a couple days ago and the last several versus of Mark have stayed with me... The last commandment that Jesus Christ left with the apostles before He ascended to the Father was, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15) I can only imagine those last moments of being with the Savior. After seeing so many miracles, feeling the spirit of the Lord in their hearts, watching the example of the Savior in word and deed as He laid down His life for all of us.. as they witnessed the Resurrection of the Lord and knowing of a surety the divinity of His calling as the Son of God... what a heart wrenching but glorious moment for Jesus Christ to plead with the apostles to go and share all that they have witnessed to others. I'm sure that Jesus pleaded with the apostles to "preach the gospel with every creature" with so much urgency!

Mark 16:19-20: "So then after the Lord had spoken unto [the apostles], he was received up into heaven and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, THE LORD WORKING WITH THEM, and confirming the word with signs following."

I love these last two scriptures!! After the sad, but glorious departure of Jesus Christ from his apostles into heaven... the disciples went out and preached the gospel. The wonderful thing is that although the apostles didn't SEE, HEAR or WALK with Jesus Christ preaching the gospel as they had before... "the Lord [was] working with them" and they were able to see His heavenly hand in their work.

I know that the Lord has commanded us to go and "preach the gospel to every creature" as He pleaded with the apostles to do. Sharing the gospel can be uncomfortable, scary and even awkward at times... but there is so much comfort in knowing that Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father (Moses 1:39) are very, very much apart of this work. They will be there to bless us, soften the hearts of those that are searching for the gospel and prepare those to receive the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that Jesus Christ didn't just command us to share the gospel with others for the benefit and salvation of others.. but so that we too can grow in love, understanding and testimony of this gospel... so that we too may be saved :)

I can't express my sincere gratitude for my Father in Heaven. I will never forget these people, the testimony that I have gained, the mercy and grace of our Savior, the miracles that I have seen and this sacred place of Florida where I myself have found Christ as I have helped others do the same.

I know that there is no other way that we can find the fullness of truth, spirit, happiness and the power of the Atonement than through the restored gospel of Jesus Christ found within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This time of my life will always bring me to tears of joy as I reflect on these last 18 months.

With all that said.... I'm can't believe that I'm packing up today... and will see you all in just a few days... :) It's been so bittersweet being away from you all... and I can't wait to give you all big hugs and share my testimony and experiences with you!!

I hope that you all have a good couple days ;) Good luck with finals.. and Angie, please get feeling better!! I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!!!!!

Well.... I guess I'll see you soon?? :)


Sister Kirkham

Missionary Badge Miracle! You don't have to wear a badge to be a missionary!

Family!!!                                          December 8, 2014

I saw some awesome miracles this past week that I want to share with you!

Last Monday, Sister Gonzalez and I did our shopping at Walmart, went to the church to email and then played soccer and other games for a District P-day. After the District P-day was over... I realized that I didn't have my name tag on.... ah! We retraced our steps and looked EVERYWHERE... including searching every square inch of the soccer field for that thing! I was so sad when we couldn't find it.... it has been the one and only name tag that I have used my whole mission... and all the other name tags that I have broke in my bag... haha I was super worried about not having a name tag for the last 2 weeks of my mission! I was praying about it all day. That night when we got home, I cleared off everything on my desk, looking everywhere for it. Sister Gonzalez also thoroughly checked my desk and we both decided that the next morning I would call Walmart to see if it was at their Lost and Found. That night I was praying real hard to be able to find that name tag... it might seem strange... but to me it was a big learning moment: I asked God what I needed to learn from this experience of losing my name tag because it seemed to have just vanished in thin air. I got a very clear answer come to me that said, "You don't need a name tag to be a missionary." Bam! That answer hit me so hard! It is neat to see how the Lord is preparing me to continue helping this work move forward when I'm home :) The next morning, we were about 30 minutes into personal study and I decided to call Walmart. My heart sunk when they said they hadn't found anything. :( Now this is the crazy part: I kid you not..... I got off the phone, and RIGHT NEXT TO MY ARM... RIGHT AT THE EDGE OF MY DESK... in PLAIN SIGHT.... was my name tag!!!!!!!!!! I picked it up in shock and started to cry a little as Sister Gonzalez and I just stared at it... I PROMISE you... there is NO WAY that we would have missed seeing that name tag... Both Sister Gonzalez and I searched my desk multiple times and... it was just RIGHT THERE!!! It was truly a miracle. The name tag just.... appeared. I don't know how else to explain it. There is no way that either one of us would have missed seeing it while looking for it, as we had cleaned on P-day and even while I was studying for 30 minutes prior that morning! I'm still in shock with how it happened... I have no idea how to explain or put it all together... because it doesn't make sense other than that it was by the hand of God. GOD ANSWERS PRAYERS!!! Most of the time, He may not answer in just huge and sudden ways.. but sometimes.. He does answer in miraculous ways. I'll never forget that!

I went on exchanges to the YSA Buena Vista Ward. The majority of the YSA are part of the Disney College Program… (aka: Disney Princesses, etc.) I'm sure Angie would die to be apart of that ward for a summer haha! When we were on exchanges we went to the Disney CP Housing to contact... but the security is super crazy. We only had a small patch of sidewalk that we could walk up and down to talk to the students as they were going to and from the bus stop. We got to talk to all kinds of people from all over the world. Real neat. The coolest miracle happened as we were talking to people! We saw these 6 Brazilian girls walking home and were struggling with their grocery bags. We were able to help them with their stuff and started talking to them as we headed to the gates of their complex. We were super worried that we were going to lose contact with them as we approached the gates because you have to go through this crazy process of being signed in by a gate guard which is quite annoying and takes several minutes... but they were all for signing us in and we were able to go with them to their apartment to share a message with them!! The YSA sister missionary that I was with was super stoked because that was the first time that she had ever been invited in! Once in the apartment, the 6 girls crowded around us to watch the new Christmas video, 'He is the Gift' and by the end.. every girl was CRYING! They loved it sooo much and were sooo excited for us to come back and share more with them! They were the ones that came up with the idea of adding us on Facebook and getting our numbers, etc. wow! It was so cool!! I'm really excited to hear what has happened with them sense!

We had a really powerful lesson with Dave this past week. We watched 'Finding Faith in Christ' and you could tell that he felt the spirit so strong! He had more questions on different stories of Christ and so we were able to relate a lot of those stories to his needs and questions and you could tell it was a really good thing for him. I talked to him on Sunday and he seemed really touched by a lot of things that he is seeing in his life right now and it's really strengthening his faith.

I had my last MLC meeting! I really like MLC. It makes you so excited and pumped to go out and tell the whole world about the gospel as well as to be of better help to the sisters under my stewardship. It was sad for that to be my last time because for the first time I felt like the mission was replacing me and moving on. Sad realization. I was asked to give a departing testimony to the MLC. I bore my testimony on love, service and sacrifice for the Lord, people of Florida and those under our stewardship. I really am so grateful for the opportunities that I have had to help and serve the sisters in the mission. One big thing that I have learned is to find success through the sisters success as you put forth the help them first before yourself. As D&C 117:3 says.. the Lord sees our sacrifices more sacred than our increase :)

The Jean family is doing okay. The teenagers.. are being teenagers.. so we are trying to work that out... but Sylotte, the mom, came to church for the first time yesterday!!! It was super exciting to have her there. :)

Sister Blessing, a less active, came to church for the first time in YEARS this Sunday!! I was so proud of her! She really is looking to come back. She really liked it. Elder Soarez of the 70 was actually apart of our Fast and Testimony Meeting yesterday and he bore a really powerful testimony which matched EXACTLY with the circumstances with which Sister Blessing is going through at this time. I really feel like his testimony did all of us good... but if nothing else, he was meant to be there for Sister Blessing. After he was done baring his testimony, Sister Blessing whispered, "woah." haha It was amazing how God knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts and that we can receive answers to our prayers through unexpected ways through people!

We had another temple service last week and the whole Zone was together for it. It also just so happened to be President's birthday that day... so I called him up on the phone and with a 1,2,3 the whole zone got to sing happy birthday to him :) That was pretty fun!!

I can't believe that I am turning 22 this week. Ew. hahaha I feel like that is so old! I feel so blessed to have spent my whole 21st year to have served the Lord and His children!! There really is no better way that I could have kick started my adult life. haha :)

I love you guys so much! I really am excited for the miracles that the Lord will continue to rain down upon us this next week. Enduring to the end!! BUT!! I'm so excited to continue serving and helping when I get home among the ward family and those that I love.


-Sister Kirkham

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Thanksgiving, visiting Winter Garden, Exchanges with Sister Kara Allred, Talk in Church re: Service

Family!                                                              December 1, 2014

This past week I was able to go back on exchanges to my first area of Winter Garden one last time! I always go down memory lane of the first few months of my mission when I am there. It brings a smile on my face as I think of those learning and growing times!

We had the BEST temple service this past week! It was a really cloudy day and I made a comment about hoping that it would rain on us at the beginning that most of the missionaries and temple grounds crew heard.... and guess what? It not only rained but was one of the most epic downpours that I have been in hahahaha Everyone was blaming it on me for God hearing and answering my prayer ;) It was sooo much fun though! We were pulling up all these bushes and we were SO muddy, but then it got more crazy when HUGE cracks of thunder started and we all thought we were going to die! haha! We were able to find shelter and then go back out in the rain once the lightening went away. It was a memorable experience but so fun to be apart of! :)

We had a lesson with Michelle's son, Marvin, on the Plan of Salvation and he has so many great, genuine questions!! He officially became a new investigator to start teaching this past week and we are super excited about it. He is super cool!

We also went over to the other Marvin's place this past week and HE taught US the Plan of Salvation.. and it was so good! He even used stories and analogies from the life of President Monson as he taught. He seriously is so cool. It's frustrating that he won't commit to things but he came to church this week and he even found out this week that he has cousins that our Mormon!!! haha! He is awesome and I really hope that you guys get to meet him.

Thanksgiving was great! We were able to see several families that day and it was great! We had a main Thanksgiving meal with the Herzog family. They are so nice! We went over to a less active's home later and they had a ton of dishes that needed to be clean so we spent about an hour to clean all of them for their family and the sister at the end said a prayer with us and said that it was the best thing that had happened to her all day. It was a heart warming moment to see that even the smallest acts of service can make such a big difference for someone!

On Friday, I went on exchanges with Sister Kara Allred again! It was so fun to be back with her! She is an awesome missionary. We had so much fun teaching different people as well as using the new church video 'He is the Gift' as a great tool to contact people! Holy cow! It works miracles! I can't tell you how many different homes that we have been able to go into to share the video! Plus! These people are so much more receptive to our message of the restored gospel and have been a lot more open to hearing more. Really, really cool. The prophets are so inspired. Sister Allred and I just had a blast all day working hard. The best part was that we were able to set up a dinner appointment that night to see her first convert, Singh. He was SO excited to see her. He set up this candlelight dinner, picked flowers and put them on our plates and started blasting John Denver... hahahaha! We asked for the music to be turned down but it was so cute to see how much missionaries mean to their converts. I've got to say that if Sister Allred and I had been companions.... we would tear it up!

Saturday night I got a text message from the bishop saying that he was planning on having me give a farewell talk before I left but that the couple that was suppose to give their talk the next day was out of town so I got to give a talk yesterday at church on service!!! I really appreciated the opportunity to share my testimony and to talk about service. :) I just want to share a few highlights from the talk:

When I think about service, one of the first things that comes to mind is the two greatest commandments: 1. Love God 2. Love thy neighbor. We can't truly love God if we don't love our fellowmen. Likewise, we can't love our fellowmen if we don't love God.

The more I have served on my mission, the more I learn more about WHO God is, the more I feel of His love and appreciation more deeply and the more I see service as not a duty but something that becomes apart of me... and I want to do it because I love my Father in Heaven.

Mosiah 2:17 states that when we are in the service of our fellow beings, we are only in the service of God. The more we seek to love God and our fellowmen, the EASIER serving becomes!!

Each one of us goes through trials and challenges but even when life gets hard, that's when we need to strive more to love God and our fellowmen! Jesus Christ was the perfect example of that. When Jesus Christ hear about John the Baptist's death, the scriptures say that he "departed thence by ship into a desert place apart"... meaning that he was probably going to find a place to mourn and be alone for awhile....BUT…it says that he saw this huge multitude of 5,000 people that were in need....and what did He do? He put his desires to be along aside and he was "moved with compassion" and healed the sick and fed 5,000 people with only 5 loaves and 2 fishes! What love Christ has for His Father and for His brothers and sisters! When He was going through challenges, He turned to service.

I know that each one of us goes through trials and challenges. The mission life can be full of heartache, frustrations, and disappointments as we try our best to serve those that make wrong choices or don't accept the gospel of Christ but the pain eases and is replaced with the spirit, guidance, and love of God as we strive to more diligently serve :)

At times we can all feel shorthanded or inadequate to be able to give the service we would hope to give. When the apostles told Christ that the 5,000 people were hungry and needed food, Christ told them to not send them away to find food but said, "Give ye them to eat. And the disciples said unto him, 'we have here but 5 loaves and 2 fishes'." ... can you imagine how the apostles must have felt with that task? I'm sure they felt overwhelmed with the task and unsure of how to even start!

Just as the apostles gave ALL that they had to the Lord, the scriptures say, "Christ took the 5 loaves and the 2 fishes, and looking up into heaven, He blessed and break and gave the loaves to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did ALL eat, and were filled and they took up the fragments that remained TWELVE BASKETS full, and they that had eaten were about 5 thousand." (Matthew 14: 19-21)

Many times we will feel as the apostles felt... overwhelmed and not sure how to help someone as we go and serve. We might feel inadequate with callings or simply being true disciples of Jesus Christ. The beautiful thing is that all that He asks of us is to give what we DO have and He will multiply it a thousand times over and we will witness great miracles!

There was a LDS commerical line several years ago that said," Sometimes the most important thing you can share is yourself." So true! There are so many different ways that we can serve and the church gives us great opportunities to such as Home and Visiting Teaching, callings, the bishop storehouse, family history and temple work, being parents, friends, coworkers, doing MISSIONARY WORK!!! :)  I am so grateful for this time that I have to serve the Lord. I have never felt such DEEP love of God for me and for each and every one of His children. I know that the true joy of service should be done out of the love for God and love for His children... not for status or recognition... simply out of love. May we keep in mind as we serve that WE are not to be remembered, but for others to remember Jesus Christ.

I love you guys so much! So grateful for all the service that you render and the great example that you are to me. Have a great week!


Sister Kirkham